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On our way
12/12/2011, Atlantic

Fresh Mahimahi with lime pickle sautéed onion and tomato fresh whole meal bread

Lunch on the 2nd day of our Atlantic crossing.

We started out from Mindelo on Sunday morning, a pod of exhurberant pink belllied dolphins gave us an escort out of the harbour. The wind was very strong between the islands of Sao Vicente and Santo Antao. We eventually left the acceleration zone and found the wind shadow of Cape Verde that everyone warned us about. By 9pm we were clear, sailing in a steady breeze. Tuatara sailed well with just the genoa flying by Monday morning we had two head sails up now we have added a reefed main. So with 3 sails we are getting along nicely at 7 or so knots in a NE wind of 20 knots.

We have caught several mahi mahi, kept 3 and released many more, they seem very small in this part of the world. Maybe the yachts in front have caught all the big ones. We keep in touch with everyone with our twice daily SSB sked. At the beginning of each sked the Net controller asks for any emergency or priority traffic and usually there is a silence, no help needed until 3 days ago when the very calm voice of the skipper of Egret came up. "This is Egret, we have lost our rudder". The yacht Egret left Mindelo as we motored into the harbour. Another yacht nearby has sailed to them and is standing by. Egret is back sailing very slowly with a jury rigged rudder. As we get closer to them we will look at the possibilty of giving them some extra fuel. Yesterday another NZ yacht, Awaroa sailed to them but the sea was too big to allow a safe drop off of fuel. Today Tsolo will also make a rendezvous with Egret with the same mission in mind hopefully the sea will be more cooperative but if not we are still 2 days away and the seas look like they may be eased by then, we will see.

In the mean time I need to get some fresh air and then breakfast

Las Palmas to Cape Verde Part 2
12/06/2011, Cape Verde

Las Palmas to Cape Verde part 2 La Gomera to Carbo Verde.

Sao Vicente is a small island in the Cape Verde group, its main town and port is Mindelo, where we are presently anchored. There are many yachts here, sightseeing, doing repairs, having a last rest and provision before the hop to "the other side". Sounds like we are off on a Star Trek adventure. At times when the sea is rough or there is no wind I am sure there will be many a sailor who wishes Scotty was aboard to beam them across.

We took just under 6 days for the 800 mile passage, La Gomera to Mindelo. We didn't put the mainsail up for the whole trip and the motor was not switched on for 5 days( much to the skippers delight). We left La Gomera at 3 in the afternoon and motored until 7 the next morning, a horrible uncomfortable night , big swell and no wind. Then at 7am we unfurled the genoa and for the next 3 days we sailed with varying amounts of headsail out, the wind slightly aft of the beam. Eventually the wind moved right behind and we sailed wing on wing, two head sails poled out. With that combination Tuatara became a more stable platform and life became more comfortable. The wind eased a little in the last 24 hours and by breakfast on the last day the motor was switched on to charge the batteries and give us a boost into Mindelo. A pod of dolphins welcomed us to the Cape Verdes, and as we got into the acceleration zone between Sao Vincete and Santo Antao the wind zipped up again. Mindful that KP on Chalofa reported the day before they had been pushed right over in a mountain induced gust, we took down the sails and continued motoring the last mile or two.

Safely anchored between Tsolo and Cormorant we enjoyed a cold beer to celebrate our arrival. Mindelo anchorage was full of yachts of many nationalities, green hull growth an indication some had arrived and forgotten to leave. However most are ready to leave and everyday one or two sail out towards their Caribbean destination, to be replaced by one or two arriving from the north for their stopover. Mindelo is a smallish very pleasant clean, port town, no cruise ships here, just a large ferry that does two daily trips across to Porto Novo, Santo Antao. Just 10 miles away the mountains of Santo Antao are hidden in the ever present Saharan dust. A few large rusty redundant fishing boats anchored in the harbour spoil the backdrop of a Tahitian look alike mountain. Ashore, Mindelo has a definite African appearance, women carry basins of produce on bright scarved heads and there is little sign of past Portuguese ancestry in these dark skinned people. The groups of men, young and old, playing cards and chatting in the shade indicate an underemployed population. I am not sure what employment is available apart from that generated from the small port, tourism and fishing for local consumption. When waiting on the beach with our dinghy, while Alan took the washing to the laundry, a man approached me, a bit scruffy, two missing front teeth, but not threatening, probably mid thirties.

"Parlez vous Francais?"

"Non Inglais"

" Ah hello my name is Joseph, I do work on the boats, cleaning, anything you want"

We proceeded to have a nice conversation in perfect English, he told me he spoke French too and did most of his work on French boats but he spoke enough English to work on English boats. Reluctantly I had to say we didn't need anything done. In the short time we have been here we have encountered many English and French speakers. How frustrating it must be for these obviously intelligent people to be so underemployed and worse for many not employed at all.

I had read that the island of Santo Antao was the greenest and most picturesque island in Cape Verde. We asked Harry and Jane to go over with us for a day.

"Well Tsolo may want come too if they don't leave," Said Jane.

"Well Kahia may want to come too," said Phil from Tsolo

"We had better ask Blue Moon too", this from Alan.

7.30 am Thursday morning, at the ferry terminal, 13 yachties turned up for our land cruise of Santo Antao. At Porto Novo we were met with a scrum of mini bus drivers and Aluguer drivers( small trucks with open air seats on the back) all wanting to take us on a tour of the island. Eventually we got a minivan that fitted us all, a driver that spoke English and a price that suited 13 people. Phew!!

Hoy, our driver was a little confused we all spoke English but we came from about 6 different countries, plus one of the English woman could speak Portuguese and Juan was our Spanish speaker. Fortunately he understood the word stop in all our accents as we had many stops to look out over the amazing mountains formed over hundreds of years of rain, wind, volcanic and agriculture. The quote below from Lonely Planet describes it very well.

"Santo Antao encompasses a dizzying array of landscapes, from barren volcanic flats to cedar- and pine covered peaks to lush, tropical canyons. Many hills have been turned into gravity defying farms that, thanks to varying altitudes and moisture levels yield everything from apples to sugar cane." Lonely Planet, Western Africa, Cape Verde.

Lunch was a bit of a mission, not many restaurants and a bit of a challenge 13 people at once even though Hoy had phoned on in advance of our arrival. We eventually all ate and left the restaurant with 90 minutes before the last ferry. Hoy proudly showed us his home village during quick trip up Vale' Do Paul. This is a river canyon full of a wide variety of produce growing in the rich volcanic soil. Back to the main road which took us along the rocky north coast and on to Porto Novo where we caught the ferry back to Mindelo. The roads on Santo Antao are made of about 10 cm square stones, all cut uniformly to size and laid in neat rows, winding up the steep hills along cliff faces and through passages cut in the rocky hills. There were no weeds, the stone curbs and water channels perfectly tidy. Every few miles a man or two in orange vests were keeping the road well maintained. Hoy told us the road was built in 1970. The only bit of sealed conventional road we encountered was about the last 10ks as we drove back to the ferry. An excellent day out.

Well I am all caught up now, this afternoon I am off ashore to find a hair cut, tomorrow last shopping at the market. We will consult the lists . have we done /bought everything? Alan visited the officials this morning for the paperwork and passport stamps so we can leave over the weekend or maybe Monday when at last we turn west towards Barbados.

I hope to post a few blogs while underway to let you know how we are going, we should take about 16 days which means we will have Christmas at sea. Yesterday someone suggested a rendezvous and raft up at sea for a Christmas pot luck, that would be fun but as most are going to different ports it could be as challenging as organizing a minivan for 13 people! ,

Las Palmas to Carbo Verde Part 1
12/06/2011, Cape Verde

Atlantic rowers and sailors share the marina at La Gomera

Today as I was peeling a mango, feet braced against either side of the galley as Tuatara's stern corkscrewed down into a hole then rose up 3 metres and bubbles gurgled past the galley port. I suddenly remembered another lunch last December in completely different surroundings, with our friends Julie and Peter in a snowy northern England in front of a cosy pub fire. Driving along snowy lanes to lunch is a world away from where we are now. It is cold but not snowy cold, the wind and easterly swell is pushing us south to the Cape Verde Islands. Today the air is murky with sand from the Western Sahara just 200 odd miles to the east. The sun is a hazy glow. At last I feel we are leaving Europe behind.

The Canary Islands are physically different than anything we saw around the Med but the people are Spanish so many things are the same but slightly different, still familiar. The Cape Verdes are an unknown quantity we are not sure what to expect. The NZ yacht Cuttyhunk reported on the morning Magellan NET that the Cape Verdes far exceeded their expectations, so with that bit of positive reporting we are looking forward to landfall at Mindelo.

8th December

I started this blog near the beginning of our passage from the Canary Islands, hoping to get it finished and posted before we arrived in the Verdes. The wind and sea had different ideas. Although the winds didn't get more than about 25 knots the big swell made the trip a little uncomfortable, not conducive for writing downstairs and writing in the cockpit was out of the question. Most of the time in the following sea we rode up and over the swells but occasionally a wave would slap Tuatara on the side and spray those in the cockpit. The joys of downwind sailing in big seas.

So now back to what we have been doing since my last blog. We left Las Palmas for La Gomera Island as a crew of 3. We had been thinking about having crew for the Atlantic, then by Las Palmas we decided no we were ok by ourselves. Three young men came out to the anchorage looking for crewing positions and there were many more ashore pouncing on any one who looked like a yachtie, asking for rides across the Pond. Some were serious young sailors and many were young people looking for a free ride and I am sure many did not know the bow from the stern let alone whether they got seasick or not. The appearance of many also put us off. One young man a head full of dreads, grubby clothes and a kitten perched on his shoulder was one of the candidates hopefully wandering the dock. Then about three days before we were due to up anchor from Las Palmas we arrived at the dinghy dock (after discussing the pros and cons of crew on the way into shore) and there was Juan a nice young Spanish lad looking for a position. We took his CV and arranged to meet after our shopping. So now we have crew. Juan, a sailing instructor comes from Mallorca, has fitted in well. It has been a learning curve on both sides, Juan especially has learnt some new skills. This is his first trip away from home so he has learnt to wash his own clothes by hand in a bucket and also how to use a tea towel and chop up vegetables!!! Not sure whether those things will help him get that paid crew position in the Caribbean he wants but you never know. His English is improving and we are trying to learn to slow our speech down and not use too many words, especially phrases like.."you know" and "that doesn't matter" two we seem to use a lot. We are also confusing him with some kiwi phrases. At La Gomera Island we hired a car and went on a Tiki tour of the island.

The overnight passage from Las Palmas to La Gomera was a good test for him and by the time we arrived we were happy that he had the skills he said he had. La Gomera is one of the last islands as you move south through Canary Islands. Like Gran Canaria Is it is a round island with one main port. At San Sebastian we shared the marina with many other yachts preparing for the crossing as well as the Atlantic rowers preparing for their long row across to Barbados. The rowers ranged from enthusiastic solos , pairs, fours and a team of 6 woman. One of the most impressive crews is the ex UK forces guys all disabled, one a double amputee from above the knees and a couple of single leg amputees. Many were preparing for between 90 to100 days of pushing their oars through the blue Atlantic. The silver packets of food lined up on the dock did sound appetizing, I spotted custard and berries on one. Although I am sure the just add water instruction could take some of the enthusiasm away, especially after 90 days. I saw one crew working on their boat packing away food all the while tucking into real food while they could, a large plate of steak and sausages. As with us their destination is Barbados and the record is 35 days so maybe if one of them get near that we could still be there to wave them across the line.

We had come to La Gomera because Joe way back in Gibraltar told us this was the prettiest and most interesting Island to travel around in the Canaries. We hired a car and the 3 of us took a day off from last minute boat chores to take in the scenery. Alan drove us up steep hills, down into deep valleys past dry rocky hills, green valleys surprisingly filled with banana palms and then up into the high national park where rain forest rules the ridges. The trees and mosses at the top of the island are very adept at gathering and using the misty clouds as they drift by. As soon as we drove into the cool shade we felt the temperature drop. We were thankful that Harry and Jane from Cormorant had warned us about the cool temperature as we put on our warm sweaters to take photos from the many lookouts along the road side. At one lookout the sun facing rock wall seemed to move with little lizards sunning themselves amongst the crevices. The roads are smooth and well built and fortunately for the photographers lookouts are well marked with a pre-warning sign of a camera, giving drivers plenty of time for stopping. La Gomera is also a hiker's haven with many sign posted tracks disappearing into the trees. Its steep going and the need to be fit was highlighted by a couple of yachties unable to walk for two days after one hike.

The road down picturesque Valle Gran Rey took us from rain forest through dry rocky hills on to banana laden palms finishing at the end of the road beach of La Playa. The hot sunny day had bought out the sun worshipers. The beach was covered in nudists, I hope they all had a towel between skin and hot black sand. After lunch we returned up the twisting road of the Valle Gran Rey, seeing the mountains and villages from a different angle.

Returning to San Sebastian along the northern road through Vallehermoso the mountains still towered above us but they took on a different look, the peaks rose to high points with slopes covered in cacti giving the mountains a green tinge from top to bottom, different from the southern brown rocky crevices. Juan commented that this part looked like he thought Peru may look like, we all agreed and all hoped that one day we would be able confirm the Peruvian look for ourselves.

The next day we did the last provisioning, stocking up with delicious locally grown avocadoes, mangoes and bananas as well as a few Juan favourites such as chocolate milk and olives. Need to keep the crew happy! A dinner out with Stu and Steph of Matador and we were ready for departure to the Cape Verdes. The next day we took a last look at the preparing rowers and motored out past the latest cruise ship, headed SW, 6 days of sailing ahead of us.

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Sailing in the Pacific
Who: Alan and Jean Ward
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